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Daughter Of Hounds, by Caitlin R. Kiernan Book Review | SFReader.com
Daughter Of Hounds, by Caitlin R. Kiernan Genre: Modern/Urban Fantasy Publisher: Penguin Published: 2007 Review Posted: 4/26/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 5 out of 10
Daughter Of Hounds, by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Book Review by James Michael White
Have you read this book?
You write a novel about dreams and lost childhood and little girls wanting to go home to daddy, you're sure to stir up lots of Freudian jazz, but in Caitlin R. Kiernan's Daughter of Hounds, she writes about just such things, and manages to do so without being goofily sentimental or comically Freudian.
Maybe that has to do with who these kids are, really, and the kind of world in which they operate. It's a mythical kind of world, where animals speak and certain unseen ones snatch kids to be raised underground by ghouls -- think werewolves, here, and you'll be pretty much correct without actually being so (these creatures never transform) -- but it's all told with a serious, straight face, because weighty matters are afoot. You see, the ghouls have plans, and though the reasons for this are never quite explained, the ghouls also seem to be snatching those kids and raising them up as an important part of their plans.
Ah, but they don't want to be discovered by outsiders, those dull, common folk who, if J.K. Rowlings were writing this, would be called muggles -- so the ghouls employ their grown-up changeling children to keep their secrets by blasting away anyone who tries to let this slip: some very weird things are going on in this world of seeming normality, things of magic and strange creatures both otherworldly and mythic. Secrets are a big part of this story, by the way, but we'll get to that in a moment.
One of those changeling children, all grown up and named Soldier because it's cool and because she's a shotgun-and-9mm-packing hitwoman with a booze problem, has a great big secret all her own, one that -- as things turn out -- helps drive the plot in one big case of mistaken identity involving, also, a little girl named Emmie Silvey.
Raised by ghouls, Soldier also grew up at the knee of a chummy-seeming fellow called the Bailiff, who also happens to give her some pretty strange marching orders and who, oh by the way, had a peculiar interest in her dreams when she was child.
That's important, also -- dreams -- as this story happily weaves them in and out of past and present action to both illuminate the life of the child Soldier, setting up all the mysteries and secrets to be revealed later, while at the same time providing a place for Emmie Silvey to interact with the mythic ghost arching over this story like Nut over Egyptian skies.
But it's those secrets, after all, that are partly problematical. Many of them are too often hinted at and withheld from readers far too long. Sure, this kind of teasing is a valid way to generate interest, yet here it often functions as an exercise in aggravation, kind of like listening to someone tell a story who has such a bad stutter that she almost never gets to the point. As a device, then, it seems not merely aggravating, but downright clumsy, as if better ways to play with the delays weren't thought up. Ah, but that's a trifling complaint. Some will dig it. Some won't.
But then there's this: the children in this story are far and away the most interesting characters, the child Soldier much more interesting than the adult, the latter of whom comes off as a clichéd and stereotypical plot robot with little more to do than curse, kill people, and pine for her bottle of booze. In fact, the adult Soldier is for so long such a dull spot in an otherwise interesting story that she may well inspire skepticism among restless readers that this will be a story worth their time.
Fortunately, though, things become more interesting as we gain insight into Soldier via repeated flashbacks to her childhood, one that not merely colors the story, but ends up driving it to a surprisingly effective end.
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